Joe Conboy and his Chesapeake Bay Retriever named Pungy. Photo: Larry Chowning

Yacht Builder, ESVA Native Remembered

Yacht builder Joseph “Joe” Conboy, a native son of Virginia’s Eastern Shore passed away at age 87 in North Carolina.

For nearly 20 years, Conboy built wooden and fiberglass boats at his yard on Robinson Creek in Urbanna, Va. He specialized in custom-built yacht construction and repair and built sail and trawler yachts using wood and Airex/fiberglass.

Conboy grew-up on the Eastern Shore of Virginia and it was there he obtained his love of the Chesapeake Bay, boats, boatbuilding and Chesapeake Bay retrievers. Throughout most of his working life, there was a Bay retriever at his side.

With an engineering background and a flair for building boats, Conboy built some of the finest custom yachts in the country. When he opened his boat shop in Urbanna in 1966, he employed local craftsmen but also advertised in national publications. This brought craftsmen and customers from all over the country and reporters from some of the largest yachting publications in the nation.

Lin and Larry Pardey, sailors and writers known for their numerous books on cruising and sailing, spent time at the yard with Larry working there for a while. Famous CBS television broadcaster Walter Cronkite brought his boat there for repair.

John England, manager of the Deltaville Maritime Museum boat shop who worked for Conboy in the early 1970s said that “if you own a Conboy yacht you own something very special.”

“He had tremendous knowledge when it came to building wooden boats,” said England, who is originally from Massachusetts. “I along with others from the hippie generation went there to learn how to build boats and Joe was a good teacher.”

Conboy operated Joseph Conboy LTD in Urbanna from 1966 to 1984. After that he ran Conboy Marine Service, Inc. at Kent Narrows in Grasonville, Md. before moving to North Carolina where he also built boats.

 -Larry Chowning